Suffern announces cooperation with county on housing codes initiative

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BY MICHAEL RICONDA SUFFERN – Suffern’s housing code enforcement authorities have pledged their support for a countywide initiative that aims to crack down on unscrupulous landlords and hazardous housing conditions, according to one of Suffern’s trustees.

In a recent release, Trustee Ed Markunas stated that he joined fellow trustee Bob Morris for a July sit down with Catherine Johnson, the program leader overseeing the Rockland Health Department’s new Rockland Codes Initiative. The meeting was held to discuss Suffern’s role in the new program. Markunas explained the trustees came away from the meeting with a plan to promote the initiative through the village’s own website by including a link to the Health Department’s confidential complaint form. A future round of talks will include Suffern Mayor Patricia Abato, village building inspectors, code enforcers and emergency personnel. “The board anticipates this meeting will occur in the next few weeks,” Markunas explained in the release. “It is our hope that this unified effort will further protect the health, property and quality of life for our Village residents.”

The Rockland Codes Initiative, which began in April, is the product of a collaborative effort between the County Executive’s Office and the Department of Health. The program aims to crack down on illegal housing and unsafe, overcrowded living conditions by unifying and expanding the county’s inspection team and increasing penalties for property-owners who do not follow code. The initiative also established an online watch list of the county’s worst offenders and a confidential reporting form, both of which are offered through the Health Department’s website. Since the program began, over $42,000 in penalties have been collected already.

Suffern’s seemingly eager cooperation is particularly notable given the spotty track record the Town of Ramapo and its villages have with code enforcement, a situation that has frustrated county and state officials. In February, the state detailed ineffective enforcement in the Town of Ramapo and the Village of Spring Valley and threatened intervention if the municipalities did not step up efforts at the local level.

Markunas added the cooperation was due partly to concern about incidents like a townhouse fire on Park Lane in Monsey on July 28, which required a response by 60 firefighters from across the county, including Suffern. The residential property was the site of two illegal businesses and the owner was consequently cited for unsafe structural conditions and operation of a business in a residential zone.

See below the Rockland Codes Initiative “Worst Landlord” watch list as featured at 4

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CORRECTION: Markunas’ press release did not state that Trustee Frank Hagen was present at the meeting with Markunas, Morris and Johnson. The original article was incorrect on this point.

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